On the process of learning new things

October 25, 2017

Last year, I was promoted from Country Manager to Project Manager at Revolve, my former job. From having a set of specific and limited list of mostly repetitive tasks, I transitioned towards having many different projects to execute from idea to completion in all possible areas: marketing & promotion, logistics, payments, branding, technology, customer experience, you name it. I remember so clearly how I felt like my brain was divided in a 1000 million little pieces and felt pulled in a million different directions. I quite often felt frustrated, drained, and like I just was not made for that position. I felt like it was way too much and not the right fit for me. But, as the overachiever I am, I could not just give up. I was determined to become an excellent Project Manager, because I thought (and I still think) that project management is one of the most awesome skills any person can have in business and in life.  And after many hours of after-office work, around 3 months into this new position, I saw the light. I got organized, I started seeing patterns, and I identified and automated repetitive tasks, and created systems and processes for almost everything I could. Finally, everything seemed to be more manageable. The worst had passed and that was the moment I finally realized that what I went through, was just a learning process. It was just the most crazy, stressful and difficult one for me, because I had never managed so many things at the same time. And learning how to do it took a lot of hard work. Eventually, I got so good at it, that I ended up enjoying it and feeling a rush of excitement and accomplishment every time one more project was done. I literally got addicted to getting things done and being the go-to person to getting things done in my department. Victory!!! It was also a relief to be finally sure that it was not that I wasn’t good enough or a good fit for this position, I just needed time to learn the nuts and bolts of being a project manager and refine skills that were completely new to me.

Maybe because I suffered so much in this learning process or because every year that goes by I am more self-aware, this learning experience really opened my eyes to the process of learning and how, even when it seems like you are not made for a new skill or a new thing/activity, you just have to power through the initial pain, for long enough until finally, things get easier. And believe me, they do!!! I am more convinced than ever about the cliché saying that practice makes perfect. Consistent practice is the only way to get better at anything. And I am also sure that it’s a process worth going through if you really want/need that new skill.

After this experience, I could see this learning process pattern in so many other skills that I learned in the past two years. I didn’t know how to cook at all and I totally dreaded it, but after a couple months of doing it almost daily, I became so skilled and fast at it (and the hubby and other people complimented the taste of the things I made so much) that cooking became so easy and such a joy! I am so much faster now and I have developed little hacks to make it even faster and more enjoyable. The same happened with coaching. Different than cooking, I didn’t dread coaching; I was actually really excited about it. But I couldn’t help but getting nervous every time I thought of coaching people. The good thing is that the very moment I found myself getting anxious about it, I thought of my project management and my cooking learning experience and told myself: “the faster you get out there, the faster you will improve.” So I threw myself into the pool and soon enough, my sessions stopped being awkward and uncomfortable and became enjoyable.

All these examples are just to give you one important message:

Go into the learning process with the right mindset and expectations. There are always two options: a) either you are sort of good at the beginning and you don’t need to work at it like crazy, or b) the new skill is complex or really different from anything you have ever done before and/or you are not naturally gifted at it, so it requires a lot of effort and practice. And, if you find yourself in this last case, fear not! Stop, breathe deeply, and just know that you may suck, feel uncomfortable, out of place, slow, or [fill in whatever negative emotion you may be feeling], the first 5, 10, 20 times or the first 3, 6, 9, or even a full year or more. But with persistence and consistent work, I can assure you, you will become better, faster, and more efficient and you may even slowly start enjoying it (a lot)! And if that new skill is going to dramatically take you closer to what you want to achieve in life, then it becomes absolutely worth it!

I am sure everyone out there has experienced the aches and pains of a difficult learning process. Tell me your story! I would LOVE to read! 🙂

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